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As the calendar year turns over, we’ve grown accustomed to the barrage of lists telling us where to travel during the next 12 months. Oftentimes these places are a country or even a whole region – you could spend an entire year exploring just one of the locations listed and still barely make a dent.

We like to travel on a smaller scale. Forget countries and cities, for us the neighborhood is the ideal unit of exploration. Celebrating neighborhood life and businesses is, of course, essential to what we do as Culinary Backstreets. Since our founding in 2012, we’ve been dedicated to publishing the stories of unsung local culinary heroes and visiting them on our food walks, particularly in neighborhoods that are off the beaten path.

But this year we are planning to dive even deeper into the cities we work in. Getting off the beaten path leads to fresh experiences, but more importantly, it’s a way for us to contribute to the economies of neighborhoods otherwise neglected by the tourism industry. Tourism is an important economic force in many cities, as it should be, but if it is not dispersed responsibly, it can devastate the urban ecosystem, one that’s based on the sound health of all of a city’s neighborhoods.

With that in mind, we are happy to declare 2018 as “The Year of the Neighborhood,” one in which our focus will be on lesser-visited neighborhoods and the people and places that keep them going. To get things started, below is a compilation of the less-visited areas that our correspondents are planning to explore this year:

Athens: Keramikos

Located just a ten-minute walk from Athens’ buzzing historic center, the laid back Keramikos neighborhood seems to live in a magical world of its own. It’s a place where old and new, Greece’s storied past and often turbulent present, tradition and forward-looking creativity, all coexist happily together. There are few other places like it in the Greek capital.

Famed in ancient times for its pottery – hence the area’s name – made from mud collected on the banks of a sacred river that once ran through it, in the last few decades Keramikos was better known as a run-down working-class neighborhood of closed factories, abandoned properties and the occasional brothel.

But starting in the early 2000s, smart investors started seeing the area’s potential. They built elegant modern lofts, renovated old neoclassical gems and established hip art galleries, which paved the way for the opening of several appealing bars, cafés and, of course, restaurants. These range from Michelin-starred Funky Gourmet and hip taverna Seychelles to several tiny holes in the wall serving only tsipouro and a couple mezes.

Greece’s ongoing economic crisis, however, put the breaks on Keramikos’s development. But, on the flip side, this has kept rents low and gentrification in check, which is why more restaurants and bars driven by a personal vision continue to open here today. It’s one of the few areas in the city that preserves a feeling of old Athens while simultaneously serving as a hub for young, creative Athenians who are determined to enjoy life, recession be damned. – Carolina Doriti

Click here to read the full neighborhood guide.

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